Biprorshee Das

IPL franchisees focus on digital campaigns this year

Revamps of websites, contests and engagement on social media lure fans to the annual cricket extravaganza.

It is not very long before one of Indian cricket's biggest properties in recent times - the Indian Premier League - kicks off. Campaigns championing the tournament and the franchisees have long begun. This year though, the franchisees are going that extra mile to engage with their fans and make them a part of their respective campaigns, particularly on the digital medium.

And it is just as well! While one cannot rule out ATL communication altogether and each franchise has specific 360-degree campaigns in place, the potential to engage and interact through the digital media remains higher than any other. It is but natural, hence, for franchisees to notice this and step on the pedal to ensure maximum reach, loyalty and awareness.

The new look on the web

The websites are being revamped by almost every team. New websites are being launched with a fresh look, easy navigation and increased focus on relevant content - all to keep the fans hooked.

The Delhi franchise, Delhi Daredevils, for example, has launched its website in a new avatar and amongst other things, it is now available in Hindi as well. Cheil Worldwide is the agency behind Delhi Daredevils' campaign and is responsible for the new website.

IPL franchisees focus on digital campaigns this year
IPL franchisees focus on digital campaigns this year
IPL franchisees focus on digital campaigns this year
Hemant Dua, head, marketing and commercial, Delhi Daredevils, who also runs his own sports consultancy company called Inspiranti Sports, tells afaqs! that this is a deliberate attempt to extend the reach to those who might be internet savvy, but not proficient in English.

"The Hindi website is to reach out to the fans who are not comfortable reading English. While Delhi Daredevils has fans spread throughout the country, a lot of our fans are based in North India. I am sure the other franchisees, too, will see this opportunity and go regional," says Dua.

Alok Agrawal, chief operating officer, Cheil Worldwide SW Asia, says, "If you look at the Delhi Daredevils fan base, it cuts across segments. It is hence very important to connect with all of them. This is the only team with a Hindi website, which we are sure will enable a lot of fans to associate with the team."

The website will also feature live scores of not just the tournament but cricket that is being played all around.

Another popular franchise in the tournament, Kolkata Knight Riders or KKR, is not leaving any stone unturned, either. It launched its revamped website, integrating the new logo, look and philosophy (New Dawn New Knights) of the team that was unveiled earlier in February. Its digital agency is 22feet.

Brijesh Jacob, managing partner, 22feet, says that KKR is very focused on the digital medium and the idea is to keep the fans informed and engaged all the time through the various platforms available.

"At the agency level, our job is to inform and keep the engagement level high. Even on the new website, the focus is on the kind of information the fan would want and not just what the team wants to give them - keeping the fans at the centre and not the brand," says Jacob.

"Eventually, entertaining fans is the primary focus of IPL. Our job is the same as an agency for KKR," Jacob adds.

The Fans' Friends

The Mumbai franchise, Mumbai Indians, has a very interesting digital campaign, too. Designed by Ogilvy India, the campaign thought is 'Players Become Friends'. To bring fans closer to the team and players, this particular campaign is digitally driven on Facebook. It is designed to increase the interactivity quotient between the players and the fans in the digital space. According to the franchise, it is breaking the 'invisible wall' between the two.

Through the campaign, iconic players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Rohit Sharma and Lasith Malinga posted personalised videos addressing fans with their first names. In the videos, the players thanked fans for supporting the team and appreciated their enthusiasm.

IPL franchisees focus on digital campaigns this year
"What we observed on our Facebook page through our fans' posts is that they are pretty serious about their comments and views on the team. We also thought that it was a one-way communication. We wanted to give them something extraordinary and make them feel more involved. Based on this, we came up with the idea of breaking the wall between the players and fans, turning the former into friends," says the Mumbai Indians spokesperson.

What further works for this initiative is the potential of these videos to go viral. Being addressed by first names, a fan obviously gets all that more excited and shares it across social media, thereby furthering the message.

Consider the name 'Abhishek'. Now, if a Tendulkar video is posted on Facebook addressed to Abhishek, imagine the reach among all the Mumbai Indians' fans so named.

The spokesperson insists that every video is different and has been separately shot with around 10 videos on an average for every player.

Other initiatives

Delhi Daredevils is also about to launch a platform-agnostic WAP site and an app for smartphone users.

Besides that, the franchise will soon close a mascot design contest where the winning entry by a fan will be the team's mascot. In yet another activity, three fans will be chosen to tour with the team. With behind-the-scene access, one will be the blogger, another a photographer and the third, a videographer posting content on the website.

Delhi Daredevils has yet another initiative up its sleeve with 'Superfans'. Herein, four young Indians were chosen who have recently accomplished a commendable feat in areas beyond cricket. Throughout the team's campaign, the Superfans will represent the fans and the 'daredevil' philosophy of the team.

Jacob, although tight-lipped about the campaign plans of KKR, insists that there will be enough activities that will continue to celebrate the supporters through contests and merchandising. Also, the team sponsors will surely partner to further fan engagement programmes every year, he says.

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